Being a parent often means putting the needs of your child before yourself. All parents have to make sacrifices and changes to their lifestyle to provide for their children. Parents of special-needs children often have to do exceptional things to protect their children and their best interests as they grow up.

Unfortunately, the strain of raising special needs children can often undermine the relationship that resulted in a child. Many families with children with conditions like autism will see the parents divorce at some point: These families may have higher overall divorce rates.

That can create unique and special considerations for both parents when it comes to estate planning and caring for their special needs child. A traditional inheritance may not be the best option, especially if the child in question cannot advocate for themselves.

A well-designed trust keeps the other parent out of the assets

The biggest concern with simply naming your child as your heir is that if you die while they are still a minor, your ex-spouse will likely gain control over all the assets you left behind for your child. There are many reasons why that would not be an ideal situation, including the potential for inappropriate use of that inheritance for the enrichment of your ex’s life instead of your child’s.

In some cases, one parent can spend enough money to leave nothing behind for the child when they reach the age of majority. If your child has special needs that preclude them from understanding the money you left behind or their need for continued financial support, it is possible for a parent or caregiver to take advantage of that.

By creating a trust, you help ensure that the money you leave for your child gets used only for the care of your child. You also help ensure that your child still has access to state support programs.

A special needs trust lets you control how your assets get used

With a standard last will, the beneficiary has the option of doing whatever they want with the assets. With a trust, the person leaving the assets behind has more of a say in what is done with those resources.

For example, the trust may limit how much the trustee or caregiver can withdraw for expenses for the special needs child in any month or year. The trust may also prohibit the use of funds for unnecessary items, such as trips or gifts. Instead, you can require that the money go directly toward housing, food and other life necessities.

Regardless of whether you have primary custody of your special needs child, if you divorce your spouse, you may want to really think about how you plan your last will. Creating a trust may be the perfect way to protect your assets and your special needs child at the same time.